Get ideas for former life on the Slovak and Austrian sides of the Iron Curtain

5.2 May 14:19, 22 Me Premium content

The Slovak-Austrian section of the EuroVelo 13 cycle route offers history, nature and gastronomy.

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Wolfgang Gaida, the 52-year-old mayor of Hoenauande March, an Austrian village on the border with Slovakia, was swimming as a boy with his friends on the nearby Morava River. They knew that there was a border in the middle and they couldn’t cross it.

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“There was another world on the other side of Morava. Sometimes I heard gunshots,” Gaida told the Slovak audience when he remembered his life on the free side of the Iron Curtain.

During the time of his grandparents, a mixed population lived here when Slovaks from the other side of Morava were commuting to a local sugar factory. His grandparents still spoke Slovak. Born in 1943, his father, who witnessed the raising of the Iron Curtain, still understood Slovak, but he no longer spoke it. No one spoke it. The Iron Curtain has ended a vibrant cross-border life. Of the five bridges in the Slovak-Austrian section of Morava, one remained near Oenau.

They knew what life would look like beyond the Iron Curtain when the Iron Curtain was pulled down in 1989.

“Finally, the barbed wire fences and patrols gave us a complete picture of how people live on the other side,” Gaida said. “Only then did we fully understand how terrible it was.”

For 33 years after the Iron Curtain collapsed, I was able to visit the river and take a bath from the Slovak side. But even today, Gaida trembles when riding his traditional cycling from Oenau to Angarn and vice versa. He goes to Anghan along the Slovak Bank of Moraba via the EuroVelo 13 cycle route, the Iron Curtain Trail. Here he takes a ferry across Moraba, goes to an Austrian bank and goes home.

“Looking at the iron curtain bunker and wreckage on the Slovak side, I still have such a strange, somewhat uneasy feeling,” Gaida said.

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